The Airline Operators of Nigeria (AON), has described the recent pronouncement by the Minister of Aviation, Hadi Sirika to deliver the Nigeria Air project by May 29 as contemptuous and an invitation to anarchy.
The minister, had during an interview on national television assured that aircraft for Nigeria Air will arrive the country on Friday, ahead of commencement of operations.
His assurance, however, comes despite a subsisting court order to maintain the status quo on the continued establishment of the proposed national carrier.
The AON had in November 2022, taken the Minister, Attorney General of the Federation, Nigeria Air, and Ethiopian Airlines to court to stop the airline from taking flight.
The umbrella body for domestic airlines in a statement on Thursday said that the utterances and actions of the minister are in flagrant disobedience of the orders of the Federal High Court of Nigeria.
The statement signed by its spokesperson, Prof. Obiora Okonkwo, said that the minister is desperately hoodwinking the entire nation and courting a charge of contempt of court.
The statement read: “We have noted with dismay the comments by the outgoing Minister of Aviation, Mr. Hadi Sirika, to the effect that he will commence operations of Nigeria Air before Monday, May 29, 2023.
“He equally stated that an aircraft in Nigeria Air colours is on its way to Nigeria in less than 24hours. All of these statements and actions are in flagrant disobedience of the orders of the Federal High Court of Nigeria which halted the said moves by the minister to float the said airline until the determination of the substantive suit brought by AON against it.
“We make bold to respond because of the myriad of inquiries from concerned and patriotic Nigerians and industry stakeholders who have either called or sent messages over the Minister’s comments.
“For the avoidance of doubt, AON welcomes the establishment of more airlines in Nigeria for we believe that the skies are big enough to accommodate all. However, AON is against any contraption that is shadowy and not in the best overall interest of the country.
“We need the outgoing Minister to come forward, defend and counter the very damning submissions in our suit. Again, it is very disturbing that a Minister is desperately hoodwinking the entire nation into accepting a massively flawed process just 72hours to the end of his 7-year tenure in office as Minister of Aviation, even as the courts have halted him”.
AON stated that stakeholders are worried that the minister’s actions may create problems for the incoming government of President Ahmed Bola Tinubu.
“The government of President Bola Ahmed Tinubu should not be blackmailed into accepting a contraption that would definitely and ultimately hurt the Nigerian economy and destroy millions of existing jobs in favour of one or two individuals and a foreign country by this hurried last minute desperation.
“The Aviation Minister is aware of the different court orders against him and Nigeria Air. He should be aware that he is courting a charge of contempt of court as he is not above the law and can not freely disregard the courts.
According to the body, it is aware that the process of acquiring Airline Operators Certificate (AOC) for Nigeria Air is only at the Stage one, contrary to the minister’s televised statement that the Nigerian Air AOC process was at the concluding Stage five.
It pointed out that the world is watching the regulator, the Nigeria Civil Aviation Authority (NCAA) on this Nigeria Air and its AOC process, adding that the NG Eagles’ flawed AOC issuance is equally a matter for another day.
“The government should understand that the actions and pronouncements of this Minister is not only impugning on the independence and integrity of the NCAA, but also capable of bringing the entire industry into disrepute thereby adversely affecting the ratings of Nigeria’s airlines on the global stage.
“The minister cannot order these certification processes by fiat. Therefore, an aircraft flying into Nigeria and bearing Nigerian colours does not change anything.
“Furthermore, the fact that the Minister has just a few more days left of his time in office, makes it necessary that promoters of the airline, if they exist, other than Sirika, should be talking to Nigerians, telling them what they ought to know and answering relevant questions about their stakes in Nigeria Air.
“Hadi Sirika knows that until the order is vacated, the Ministry of Aviation cannot proceed with any action towards the airline”, the statement added.